Joy Martin Hirzel

Date of Birth

May 13th, 1922

Date of Death

August 19th, 2012

Memorial Meeting

Napa-Sonoma Friends Meeting


The Napa-Sonoma Friends Meeting lost a treasured Member on August 19, 2012. Although Joy Martin Hirzel came to our Meeting near the end of her years, this delightful and many-talented woman quickly became an important part of our little group. Joy was born in Los Angeles on May 13, 1922. She grew up on a goat ranch outside of L.A., in an area now part of the Angeles National Forest. It was a humble tomboy life, without running water, spent close to the animals and outdoor world she loved.

Joy attended the University of Southern California, where she majored in Business Communication. She moved to the San Francisco Bay area in the early 50s, where she met her husband and raised their three children in their Marin County home.

During this time the family joined the San Francisco Friends Meeting. While a part of this Meeting, Joy conducted extensive interviews of Members and Attenders about what attracted them to Quakerism. Joy later would say that what attracted her to Quakerism was the peacefulness, and the silence that allowed her to think her own thoughts, as well as something that the whole family could do together.

Joy was a very active young woman. She assisted her children in all their activities, and was a regular presence in their schools. Also, she did local volunteer work and gave classes in baking bread. Friendships were to be nurtured, and one way Joy demonstrated this was through the unique paper cranes she made and gave to her friends. Always an innovative dresser, Joy delighted in doing demonstrations for women's groups on how to tie a scarf and set off an outfit.

During these busy early years Joy Martin taught business skills and court reporting. She also became a substitute teacher. In her own words, finally she "worked her way down to her real love: teaching early childhood educators and little children." Joy opened her own nursery school while living in Marin. Using her experiences in creating a school respectful of the principles of developmental learning and the unique styles of young children, she later wrote a textbook titled Early to Learn. Some of this book was illustrated with photos taken by her photographer daughter. It has been used and enjoyed by both parents and teachers of young children.

Joy Martin Hirzel loved to write. She was a regular columnist for local newspapers in some of the many places she lived during her second marriage. Her delightful columns, on a variety of topics, were witty, down to earth, and grounded in love and faith - just like their author! Joy also wrote a number of children's books, including Bear Story: A Rhyme from A to Z's. This published work is a narrative alphabet book, which combines the author's love of animals with her extensive knowledge of how children learn. Some of Joy's books are still in manuscript form, including another animal story, currently being considered for publication. This book was created along with her wildlife photographer daughter. She wrote into her last year, and was excited about all the little-known facts she was uncovering in the writing of her final book about the American flag.

Perhaps because Joy was a writer, she could describe herself accurately in the third person. Joy Martin Hirzel "demonstrated every love she could for family. She had a green thumb for children, animals, and plants. Joy cared for people and they sensed her reverence for life...basic simplicity, gratitude, and enthusiasm shined through her." Her three children (a son and two daughters), and four grandchildren "were close to her heart."

Joy came to Napa and the Napa-Sonoma Friends Meeting in the 1990s, along with her second husband, Mark Hirzel. Joy met and married Mark in Hawaii. She particularly loved the Oahu Meeting, where she remembered sitting on the ground in an open pavilion with the ocean breeze blowing through. The couple lived many places, including Montana, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and the above-mentioned states of Hawaii and California. Sadly, Mark passed away not too long after their move to the Napa Valley. One of their favorite things to do as a couple was to get deli sandwiches and drinks, drive up to a viewpoint in Napa Valley, and enjoy a long and leisurely lunch.

Joy continued to bring her own unique presence to our Meetings for Worship and Business, as well as to our personal lives. In Quaker matters we relied on Joy for her long experience and practical, calm, centered viewpoints. We counted on her pertinent, but delightful stories, and her wit to see us over the rough spots. Our Meeting will truly miss her color and calm and the brightness she brought to the world. Joy was so very well named!